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Dressing down is up and dressing up is down: As the pandemic continues, the dress code that defined what to wear anywhere, from a wedding to work, has changed. When it comes to the virtual office, it seems slippers are the new loafers and sweatsuits have replaced suits. The possibility of a second summer working from home might mean a more laidback work-from-home wardrobe carries on. In recent weeks, there has even been a rise in searches for sweat shorts. With spring already here and summer on the horizon, you could also be looking to swap your sweatpants for sweat shorts.
Contrary to their name, sweat shorts don’t actually have to sweaty at all. And fabrics you might assume are too hot for the summer could, in fact, handle the heat. For example, a pair of fleece sweat shorts might seem suffocating for the summer. But when you turn a fleece pair of sweat shorts inside out, you could see little loops made with cotton and known for its breathability, explained Ryen Anderson, the director of men’s apparel design at Stitch Fix. This is what helps those seemingly hot fleece shorts stay more cooling than a pair of fleece sweatpants. We consulted experts on the best breathable fabrics for summer loungewear otherwise and compiled some of the most highly-rated sweat shorts for men and women right now.
Best fabrics to consider for summer loungewear
While loungewear in the winter usually involves layers — sweatshirts, sweaters, sweatpants, socks — the summer heat means less clothing, which makes deciding what to put on much harder. But beyond obvious fabrics we associate with cold weather (think wool and cashmere), there are also less obvious fabrics you should try to avoid in the summer. When looking at clothing labels, be wary of 100-percent synthetics like polyester, nylon and acrylic. In general, these materials can be uncomfortable to wear because they don’t breathe well, explained Preethi Gopinath, an associate professor of textiles at Parsons School of Design.
Instead, look out for these fabrics when shopping for summer loungewear, according to Gopinath:
- Cotton, linen and hemp: Comfortable and lightweight, these fabrics trap less heat or absorb moisture like sweat.
- Tencel (or lyocell) and modal: Whereas cotton, linen and hemp are natural fibers, tencel and modal aren’t — they’re manufactured fabrics especially designed to be breathable.
- Terry: This material will have a loop pile construction (as Anderson pointed out above), which helps absorb sweat away from the body and provide cooling comfort.
- Synthetic blends: Some synthetic blends — including cotton-and-polyester, cotton-and-nylon and even polyester-and-nylon — can work well in the heat. The cotton in these blends helps remove moisture from skin. And while not really breathable on their own, the blend of polyester and nylon can evaporate sweat away quickly.
Along with the aforementioned fabrics, keep an eye out for the words “moisture-wicking.” A moisture-wicking material “moves sweat, water or any other moisture away from the skin and to the surface of the material, before swiftly drying and evaporating,” explained Deanna Wu, vice president of merchandising at Brooklinen. So think of moisture-wicking in two parts — moving and drying sweat so your skin doesn’t feel sweaty. While some fabrics can be made to be moisture-wicking through a chemical finish or mechanical knitting (including synthetics and fleeces), others like cotton usually aren’t (because it doesn’t dry swiftly), according to Anderson.
Best sweat shorts of 2021
Given the aforementioned expert guidance, we found sweat shorts for men and women made of materials that will help with the heat and still be comfortable for working from home.
Best sweat shorts for men of 2021
These shorts, which have a longer 9-inch inseam, feature an elastic waistband with an adjustable inner drawcord and deep pockets that can hold a phone, keys and other essentials. The shorts come in six colors, including Maroon and Navy — two of the gray shades are a blend of cotton and polyester, while the rest are completely made from cotton. They are available in sizes S to 4XL. On Amazon, these Champion shorts have earned an average 4.4-star rating over more than 34,000 reviews.
With Adidas’ trademark three stripes, these shorts are fabricated from French terry. These shorts feature front zip pockets and a drawcord on the waist to adjust the fit. You can choose from sizes S to 2XL. A popular pick, the shorts earned an average 4.8-star rating from over 1,000 Adidas reviewers.
Made from recycled polyester and elastane, Vuori’s Ponto Short is meant to be both moisture-wicking and sustainable. For a customized fit, the short features a drawcord that can be tightened and an elastic waistband that’s stretchy. You’ll find one zip pocket in the front (along with two open pockets on the sides of the shorts) and a zip stash pocket in the back. These shorts come in colors like Platinum Camo and Charcoal Heather and in sizes XS to XL. The Ponto Short has the highest average star rating among the sweat shorts on this list, with a 4.9-star rating over almost 1,400 reviews.
From Lululemon, which is well-known for its leggings, these men’s shorts are made from a mix of cotton, polyester and elastane. In terms of fit, these 7-inch shorts are tapered — giving glutes and thighs breathing room while narrowing near the hem. You can choose from sizes S to XXL. On these shorts, you’ll find features like a waistband drawcord, zippered pocket and a center back tape to hang these shorts in a gym locker room.
A bestseller under men’s sports shorts on Amazon, these shorts from Hanes have gained an average 4.4-star rating over more than 17,000 reviews. The shorts are designed from a cotton and jersey blend that’s meant to be soft like the brand’s popular T-shirts. These shorts come in sizes S to 4XL and shades like Light Steel and Black. Featuring an elastic waistband with a drawstring and side front pockets, these shorts might be an easy option to throw on before running errands. There’s also a similar pair from Hanes for women.
Best sweat shorts for women of 2021
Girlfriend Collective’s Gazelle Short is made completely from recycled water bottles and designed to be recyclable. You can run in these water-resistant shorts, which are also sweat-wicking and feature built-in underwear lining, zippable pockets and drawstring waist. They have a slightly looser fit and come in sizes XXS to 6XL. Choose between two colors: Black and Moss. If you’re looking for a higher rise, the brand also carries the Trail Short.
Unlike other shorts on this list, this pair of Lululemon shorts are available in numerical sizes, ranging from 0 to 14. You can choose between three colors currently: Black, Heathered Core Medium Gray and Heathered Savannah. These shorts are made from a blend of modal, polyester and elastane — the brand says they are designed to be both super soft and stretchy. In terms of fit, these shorts have a high rise and a shorter inseam, at 3 inches. On these shorts, you’ll find two front pockets with an interior card sleeve and cinchable drawcord waist.
These Athleta shorts are designed to be worn on-the-go, made with organic cotton that’s breathable. The fabric has a UPF 50+ rating — UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor and measures how well a material can block sunlight. So this short could be an option to wear when working outdoors. These shorts are semi-fitted, skimming over the body, and feature easy pull-on style and adjustable drawcord. Like Lululemon’s shorts, this pair comes in numerical sizing, including sizes 0 to 26 and options for Regular and Tall. If you’re looking for similar shorts that are a little longer, Athleta also carries a bermuda version of these.
This pair of sweat shorts from Amazon’s own brand have earned an average 4.4-star rating over more than 1,200 reviews. You can choose from colors like Bright Coral, Burgundy and more. The shorts are made from a blend of cotton and polyester. Featuring side pockets in the front and an elastic waistband with an adjustable drawstring, the shorts are also available in sizes XS to XXL.
Made from mostly cotton and some spandex, these sweat shorts are meant to be lightweight and moisture-wicking. They feature a relaxed fit throughout and a high rise with an adjustable elastic waistband. At the hem, these shorts are designed with scalloped side seams to show off more of your legs. You can choose from colors like Woodgrain and Everglade. These shorts are available in sizes XS to XL.